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The Supreme Court Friday refused to grant interim relief to Nirma’s proposed cement plant in Bhavnagar district of Gujarat and asked for fresh environmental assessment of the project. In the state assembly, the opposition Congress staged a walk out when a BJP member was not allowed to raise the issue of farmers’ stir against the plant.

The apex court has directed the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) to set up a committee of five expert scientists to examine the grant of clearance to Nirma cement plant in Bhavnagar.

The apex court bench of Chief Justice S.H. Kapadia, Justice K.S. Panicker Radhakrishnan and Justice Swatanter Kumar directed fresh assessment of the project after it declined Nirma’s plea seeking stay of the March 11, 2011 show cause notice by MoEF asking it to stop construction with immediate effect.

The apex court direction for fresh appraisal of the environmental clearance came after Solicitor General Gopal Subramanium told the court that MoEF will reconsider its 2008 environmental clearance.

Nirma moved the apex court challenging the interim order of the Gujarat High Court declining to stay the March 11, 2011 show cause notice by the MoEF.

The apex court order said that the expert committee of scientists will examine whether the land on which cement plant is coming up is a part of wet land or water body. The committee will also examine what would be the plant’s impact on the environment.

The expert committee will submit its report to MoEF within six weeks. The expert committee will arrive at its findings after hearing all the contending parties, including locals protesting the project.

Thereafter, the MoEF will file an affidavit communicating its decision to the apex court. The matter will come up for hearing on May 10.

Appearing for Nirma, senior counsel Dushyant Dave in an undertaking told the court that construction activities would cease till the matter was decided by the court. The senior counsel also said that Nirma would withdraw its petition pending before the high court.

It may be recalled that MoEF by its March 11, 2011, show cause notice had asked Nirma as to why its environmental clearance should not be revoked. However, next day (March 12) Nirma asked MoEF to withdraw its show cause notice and declined to retreat the project. It indicated taking legal recourse for the redressal of its grievance.

The Gujarat High Court by its March 16, 2011 interim order had declined Nirma’s plea seeking stay of MoEF show cause notice. The Nirma cement project is coming up at Village Padhiyarka in Mahuva taluka in Bhavnagar district near Jamnagar in Gujarat. Ends.

In the assembly, Congress members staged a walkout after the Speaker denied permission to Mahuva’s BJP MLA Kanu Kalsaria, who is leading the farmers agitation, to raise the issue in the house.

Kalsaria was suspended for the day after he trooped into the well of the house following the speaker’s refusal of permission to raise the issue. He was later escorted out by marshals, triggering protests from the Congress members who raised anti-government slogans and then walked out.

Leader of Opposition Shaktisinh Gohil of the Congress told mediapersons, “We walked out of the house in protest against the anti-farmer attitude of the state government.”

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